Friday, October 30, 2009
In you my peace remains
Lady Detroit (not her real name unless we’re in a Miss America Beauty Contest) is new in Lebanon for less than a month, buzzing around town trying to unpack her 39 box-shipment that came with her from Michigan, and trying to put together a decent lesson plan each day for her classes along with understanding the overall famous “cultural complexity in Lebanon”.
At one point we talk about the assumptions made about American women in Lebanon. When I opened up my mouth about the topic, Lady Detroit who is a woman in her late 40s, lights up and pours her heart out with this: “ I don’t get it. The other day I was just over buying things at the grocery and then this nice man offers to help me with my bags. He says he is a professor at the Lebanese university and that he is a philosopher too. So I says okay, please do help me out nice sir. When we get near my building downstairs he tells me, ‘ I want to be your friend and lover’. I was like Whaaaat!! I took those bags over from him and asked him to leave.”
Lady Detroit’s story is not the first I hear around here: American or “white” women taken under the assumption that they are ‘easy’ and ‘willing’ because they’re from the “West”. The bigger surprise is that one hears stories about the ‘Hymen reconstruction’ business in the Middle East as a booming one. What’s further is that many of the clients for the hymen reconstruction business are veiled muslim women. Once again: veiled muslim women. You heard that right.
Lady Detroit says to me late that night: “you know what’s crazy is that I know a lot of Muslims in Detroit, and boy are they devout. Religion is religion and there’s no joke about that, whereas here there is so much of that cultural religion stuff and so much non-spirituality. I was raised in a family where a girl does not have sex before marriage, and that’s how I raised my own daughters. It must be so hard for you muslim girls who do want to have a sincere sense of faith here in Lebanon. There are so many other girls who are veiled who ruin Islam’s reputation here for you …. boy… what do you do with that?”
“ well, you just say no, like any other girl in the world chooses to say no” ( I was thinking of my post on Marc, here).
Lady Detroit is new, but other Caucasian women I know in Lebanon will tell me that the longer they stay here, the less they go out at night alone, for example. Harassment, physical abuse, taunting, and direct attack are not unheard of by Arab men towards ‘foreign-looking women’.
All I could think of, while Lady Detroit told me the story of how her daughter who got physically attacked in Egypt in broad daylight, hit and pushed down to the ground while everyone around watched and did nothing …. All that flashed in my head were the stories I heard in the news of veiled muslim women getting harassed in Texas by rednecks, or killed in other places in the world just for walking down the street and looking muslim …. And I said to myself…. Now you see the larger picture don’t you, that this sort of thing happens not only to us veiled girls but even to Caucasian women from Detroit or Canada or Europe or Australia who walk in the wrong place for them somewhere like Lebanon, Egypt or even Korea (I heard stories about that too).
I thought what if it was me who got harassed or pushed to the ground like that?